Mar 292010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

This fall, students may be picking up the tab for seven campus construction projects totaling $54 million.

Weeks after the Facilities Management Department proposed to raise student fees an additional $300 per year, the University Facility Fee Advisory Board talked the department down to an increase of $150.

The Student Fee Review Board, which makes recommendations regarding the allocation of $25 million in student fees annually, agreed to endorse the increase. Following student government’s endorsement, the increase request will ascend the ladder for approval by CSU President Tony Frank’s Cabinet and finally the CSU System Board of Governors on May 4.

Since the implementation of the fee in 2006, student leaders have strongly opposed price hikes, saying it sets a precedent that would add to the already sharply increasing burden on students’ wallets.

Matt Worthington, the Associated Students of CSU director of Legislative Affairs and an SFRB board member, was the only member who voted against a fee increase, saying it was understood that ASCSU did not support an increase to cushion a shortfall of state funding.

“With the lack of state funding, we’re using student fees to boost construction that is not traditionally paid for by student fees,” Worthington said. “We’re creeping toward a private model.”

Whether ASCSU’s Senate will support the increase is unknown.

“It’s hard to speculate what Senate’s going to decide,” said Tim Hole, student government vice president and SFRB chair.

Hole, who doesn’t vote on fee increases unless there is a tie, said that he would have voted in favor of the increase but only because the quality of campus is one of the “main pillars” for why students choose an institution. Whether this is the correct way to accomplish the projects, Hole said, is debatable.

Tamla Blunt, the chairperson of UFFAB, said Facility’s original request was asking too much of students during a tough economic time but said she doubts the state will continue to foot the bill for new construction projects.

The largest proposed project is the construction of a second engineering building, designed by the college’s students and faculty. It is expected to boost CSU into the top tier of programs in the nation.

After UFFAB cut Facilities’ request for the fee increase from approximately $65 million to $30 million, Sandra Wood, dean of the College of Engineering, said they plan to ask alumni for donations and apply for grants to add to the construction budget.

“We need to reduce isolation of students and faculty in poor quality space,” Wood said. Enrollment in her college has nearly doubled in the last few years and the facilities can’t keep up, she said.

The chance that donors will pitch money for the second building, Engineering II, is likely, said Brian Chase, director of Facilities Management. But in the event that investments from outside parties aren’t available, the specifics of the project are flexible.

“The building is designed like a loaf of bread, and the difference between the $30 million design and the $65 million design is the number of slices,” Wood said, explaining that room would be left for future additions.

Tim Sellers, a senior civil engineering major and ASCSU chief of staff, said space constraints in the existing Engineering Building are impeding on his lab time. Labs slated to last three hours are being cut short, he said.

His fluids lab is segmented into 40 minutes of demonstration. The experiment groups are then split in half and given less time to conduct the assignment.

Students from every discipline will benefit from the addition because the national ranking of colleges and universities takes the quality of its engineering program into account, Wood said. Engineering II will also have a 24-hour study lounge available to all students.

The new building will also house the first undergraduate Biomedical Engineering program in Colorado, which Wood said she estimates will bolster the university’s overall reputation.

Other projects the Facilities fee increase will pay for are:

A $16.4 million expansion and renovation of The Morgan Library,
$2 million renovation to the Eddy Building,
$2 million upgrades to the Visual Arts Building,
$2 million renovations to the Animal Science Building,
$1 million upgrades to the Forestry Building, and
$1 million upgrades to miscellaneous classrooms around campus.

Most campus construction is funded by multi-million dollar loans –– bonds the university is mandated to repay within 30 years –– from large investment corporations on Wall Street. CSU is paying on two bond sets, which are scheduled to be settled in 2037 and 2038.

“The ability to borrow money right now is very good, interest rates are very good and we can get a great deal,” CSU Provost Rick Miranda said.

The administration, Miranda said, recognizes that students have been generous with fees in the past and said he and his colleagues have to tread cautiously on the subject.

“We want to make opportunities for students the best in the country. We don’t want to be take the backseat to anyone.”

_Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at _

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